NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS) 20080032521: LISA Pathfinder
Publication date 2008-01-07
Topics NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS), LISA (OBSERVATORY), PATHFINDER NUCLEAR REACTOR, GRAVITATIONAL WAVES, SPACE MISSIONS, GEODESIC LINES, STELLAR MASS, SUN, BLACK HOLES (ASTRONOMY), ATTITUDE CONTROL, ALGORITHMS, Stebbins, Robin,
USA Pathfinder is a space mission dedicated to demonstrating technology for the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA). LISA is a joint ESA/NASA mission to detect low-frequency gravitational waves on the 0.0001 to 0.1 Hz frequency band. LISA is expected to observe 100's of merging massive black hole binaries out z-15, tens of thousands of close compact binary systems in the Milky Way, merging intermediate-mass black hole binaries, tens of stellar-mass black holes falling into supermassive black holes in galactic centers, and possibly other exotic sources. Several critical LISA technologies have not been demonstrated at the requisite level of performance. In spaceflight, and some fight hardware cannot be tested in a 1-g environment. Hence, the LISA Pathfinder mission is being implemented to demonstrate these critical LISA technologies in a relevant flight environment. LISA Pathfinder mimics one arm of the LISA constellation by shrinking the 5-million-kilometer armlength down to a few tens of centimeters. The experimental concept is to measure the relative separation between two test masses nominally following their own geodesics, and thereby determine the relative residual acceleration between them near 1 mHz, about a decade above the lowest frequency required by LISA. To implement such a concept, disturbances on the test masses must be kept very small by many design features, but chiefly by "drag-free" flight. A drag-free spacecraft follows a free-falling test mass which it encloses, but has no mechanical connection to. The spacecraft senses it's orientation and separation with respect to the proof mass, and its propulsion system is commanded to keep the spacecraft centered about the test mass. Thus, the spacecraft shields the test mass from most external influences, and minimizes the effect of force gradients arising from the spacecraft, and acting on the test mass. LISA Pathfinder will compare the geodesic of one test mass against that of the other. Only a metrology system based on interferometry can achieve the displacement sensitivity. Interferometers monitor the separation of both test masses with a sensitivity comparable to that required by LISA, and using the same technologies. LISA Pathfinder is scheduled to be launched in the first half of 1020 to a Lissajous orbit around the first Sun-Earth Lagrange point, L1. In addition to a complete European technology package (the LISA Technology Package, or LTP), LISA Pathfinder will also carry thrusters and software, known as ST-7, a part of NASA's New Millennium Program.
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